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Nature and the Environment

Associated Skill: Landscape


Seminar Questions

    1. What is the relationship between the development of natural history and political economy?
    2. How did understandings of the origins of life change between the eighteenth century and today?
    3. How does taking seriously the history of global energy shifts allow us to rethink the relation between energy and empire?
    4. Can we think of empire as a byproduct of global energy shifts?
    5. How do different forms of energy system shape political possibilities for democracy?

    Primary Sources

    Secondary Sources

    • (Jonathan Hodge, ‘Evolution’, in Peter Bowler and John Pickstone (eds), The Cambridge History of Science: The Modern Biological and Earth Sciences (Cambridge, 2009), vol. 6.
    • Robert Young, Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1985), chapters 1 and 2, pp. 1-55.
    • Bruce Podobnik, Global Energy Shifts (Temple University Press, 2006), 1-17.
    • Timothy Mitchell, ‘Carbon Democracy,’ Economy & Society 8 (3): 399-432.
    • Stephen Milder, Greening democracy : the anti-nuclear movement and political environmentalism in West Germany and beyond, 1968-1983 (CUP, 2017), 1-18.

    (All items can viewed online via Talis Aspire.)

    Background Reading

    Natural History

    • Alexander, Denis and Ronald Numbers (eds), Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (University of Chicago Press, 2013).
    • Allen, David Elliston, The Naturalist in Britain: A Social History (Princeton University Press, 1994).
    • Arnold, David, The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze: India, Landscape, and Science, 1800-1856 (University of Washington Press, 2015).
    • Bleichmar, Daniela, Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2012).
    • Cowie, Helen, Conquering Nature in Spain and Its Empire, 1750-1850 (Manchester University Press, 2011).
    • Drayton, Richard, Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (Yale University Press, 2000).
    • Easterby-Smith, Sarah, Cultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France, 1760–1815 (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
    • Endersby, Jim, Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science (University of Chicago Press, 2008).
    • Jonsson, Fredrik Albritton, ‘Rival Ecologies of Global Commerce: Adam Smith and the Natural Historians’, The American Historical Review, 115 (2010).
    • Jardine, Nick, James Secord, and Emma Spary, Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
    • Pratt, Mary Louise, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (Routledge, 2007).
    • Sivasundaram, Sujit, Nature and the Godly Empire: Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
    • Spary, Emma, Utopia’s Garden: French Natural History from Old Regime to Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2010).


    • Beer, Gillian, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 1983).
    • Bowler, Peter, Evolution: The History of an Idea (University of California Press, 2003).
    • Browne, Janet, Darwin’s Origin of Species: A Biography (Atlantic Books, 2006).
    • Desmond, Adrian, The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine and Reform in Radical London (University of Chicago Press, 1989).
    • Gregory Radick and Jonathan Hodge (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Darwin (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
    • Hale, Piers, Political Descent: Malthus, Mutualism, and the Politics of Evolution in Victorian England (University of Chicago Press, 2014).
    • Moore, Jim and Adrian Desmond, Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins (Allen Lane, 2009).
    • Secord, James, ‘Global Darwin’, in William Brown and Andrew Fabian (eds), Darwin (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
    • Secord, James, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (University of Chicago Press, 2000).
    • Young, Robert, Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

    Environment and Politics

    • Rolf Peter Sieferle, The Subterranean Forest: Energy Systems and the Industrial Revolution (White Horse Press, 2010).
    • Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the making of the modern world economy(Princeton University Press, 2000).
    • Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political power in the age of oil(Verso, 2011).